Symbios.pk: Entrepreneur takes shopping portal among top three

Published: December 26, 2013

Saad Jangda’s product wins business contest held by MIT.

Saad Jangda’s product wins business contest held by MIT. Saad Jangda giving his final presentation in the presence of MIT judges in Islamabad just prior to his selection. PHOTO: EXPRESS
KARACHI: 

When Saad Jangda launched his startup in 2006, not many people were aware of online shopping in Pakistan. Seven years later, his product is one of the leading e-commerce portals in what, according to him, has become a $10 million (tapped) market with a lot of room to grow.

Jangda embarked on an entrepreneurial spree by launching Sybiosistec.com – a software development house. However, it was not the company itself but one of its products that earned him a notable success.

“The child is now even bigger than its parent company,” Jangda told The Express Tribune while referring to Symbios.pk, an e-commerce portal and one of the products Symbiosistec.com had launched.

Starting from a basement car garage with savings from his monthly pocket money, Jangda has transformed Symbios.pk into one of the top players in Pakistan’s online retail market– an emerging market segment that largely remains untapped.

With more than 22,000 products in 15 categories, it has already served over half a million customers. This is a milestone for a company that is set to get international exposure.

This year, Jangda’s Symbios has won a prestigious business contest – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Enterprise Forum’s Business Acceleration Programme (MITEFP-BAP).

MITEFP-BAP is a highly competitive annual event with an objective to help Pakistani IT, ITES, telecom and new media companies improve their business. The winners get a chance to attend an entrepreneurship development programme (EDP) at MIT in Cambridge, the United States.

The EDP is an intensive training programme through which Pakistani entrepreneurs will meet venture capitalists, Angel investors and serial entrepreneurs in the US.

The programme, which has helped previous winners increase their sales manifold, is certainly going to help Jangda take his venture to the next level.

“I want to convert Symbios.pk into the Amazon of Pakistan,” said Jangda, who holds a BS in Computer Engineering from Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology and an MBA from College of Business Management. With the kind of progress the company has made, this looks very practical.

Symbios.pk, according to Jangda, is already among the top three players in the e-commerce market. Daraz.pk and Homeshopping.pk are the other two. It attracts over 30,000 visitors daily. Of these, only 1% or 300 people give orders, he said, an indication that there is a lot of room to grow.

On the conservative side, Jangda said, the online retail market that has been tapped so far is about $10 million and is growing. The figure, he said, is based on market share of top e-commerce portals.

As part of its plan to grow further, Symbios has done some research on the impact of high-speed mobile internet on e-commerce.

The research showed a 50% increase in the size of the e-commerce market within three months of India launching third generation (3G) mobile technology, Jangda said. Bangladesh, too, saw its online retail market increase by 30% in the first three months following its 3G auction, he said.

“We expect Pakistan will have a 40% increase in e-commerce,” he said referring to similarities and advantages the country’s telecom sector has. For example, in Pakistan many people already have 3G-enabled devices, all they need is a high-speed mobile internet service.

Given that 30% of their orders come from rural areas, Jangda’s expectations from the upcoming spectrum auction seem logical. As high-speed mobile internet services are likely to increase broadband penetration in rural areas because of the country’s high cellular teledensity, more rural customers will be able to connect with the online market easily.

“IT, marketing and supply chain are main components of e-commerce. We are more in supply chain as we source our products from Singapore, Dubai and the US to offer best prices,” Jangda said summarising his success strategy.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (22)

  • Shakil A Khan
    Dec 26, 2013 - 3:35AM

    Its amazing and absolute astonish to believe such figures for “E commerce” site that does not even offer a single online payment system. It doesnt even process Pakistani local debit/credit cards and still call itself an Electronic Commerce site. Hats off to MIT for endorsing this, I am amazed. But given that no online payments, its good online catalogue that you can pay on delivery or other manual methods.

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  • Jibran
    Dec 26, 2013 - 5:14AM

    eCommerce in Pakistan will never work. With the absence of strong laws to prevent online fraud, I would be very skeptical in buying something online without looking at the actual product. There is too much fraud going on. And what if the “online store” one day decides to wind up, after selling my financial information to other thieves. Simply too risky for the consumer.

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  • optimist
    Dec 26, 2013 - 7:44AM

    Well done… People like him will lead many others!

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  • m@ni
    Dec 26, 2013 - 9:14AM

    Good luck! But symbios.pk, checking the quality of site, doing this level of business hard to believe.Recommend

  • sgrr
    Dec 26, 2013 - 10:36AM

    All items prices on higher side

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  • AV
    Dec 26, 2013 - 11:55AM

    Guys, give the guy credit where it is due with his vision of starting up a venture and taking it to next level at a time when online shopping was in its infancy stage in Pakistan

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  • Analyzer
    Dec 26, 2013 - 1:20PM

    Above article is just for publicity ! And Figures are wrong.
    I Think its nothing like e-commerce portal but a good online catalogue

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  • Dec 26, 2013 - 1:52PM

    @Shakil A Khan: you should look into something called “Cash on Delivery” .. its a hit in emerging markets.

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  • Dec 26, 2013 - 1:55PM

    @Jibran: “eCommerce in Pakistan will never work.” .. Daraz.pk netting USD 14 million in its first year says otherwise.

    “And what if the online store one day decides to wind up, after selling my financial information to other thieves. Simply too risky for the consumer.” … any institution can do that if it collects transactional data, from your favorite diner to bank. Smart people don’t get robbed.

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  • Dec 26, 2013 - 2:19PM

    I think the guy was little late.. The pioneer of Ecommerce industry in pakistan was non other then Abid beli.. The founder of beliscity.com i am not sure the site exists now or not.

    His portfolio..

    http://www.abidbeli.com/who-is-abid-beli.php

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  • Jawwad Shekha
    Dec 26, 2013 - 4:04PM

    Symbios is one of the pioneers in online shopping. Very few in Pakistan have credit and debit cards so “cash on delivery” model makes more sense.

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  • Dr OmerJangda
    Dec 26, 2013 - 6:03PM

    @Jawwad Shekha:
    Its not one of the pioneer its the pioneer

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  • Sohail
    Dec 26, 2013 - 6:36PM

    Funny to see that symbios is covered by Tribune while HomeShopping.pk is way bigger then them in terms of sales and reliability.

    Sorry to see Symbios is all about China and they are really bad at returning products while home shopping has return policy that also works

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  • Dec 26, 2013 - 7:02PM

    Syombois and many other online shopping websites are not paying the required Taxes. Now, I would suggest FBR to visit this man and recover atleast USD 200,000 TAX.

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  • Saad
    Dec 26, 2013 - 8:39PM

    ET makes money by posting reviews periodically for shopping stores with fake figures! it aint professional ET…

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  • Samee
    Dec 26, 2013 - 11:23PM

    TCSConnect.com claims SYMBIOS.PK sells chinese replicas not the genuine products. The article seems to be paid one by Symbios.

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  • Dec 27, 2013 - 11:15AM

    Amazing efforts symbios.pk – I agree with the efforts they are doing. I am a regular customer and find them perfect. I feel all negative reviews are by competitors.

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  • Dec 27, 2013 - 11:21AM

    Symbios.pk is really doing well according to my view, I am their regular customer who resides in P.E.C.H.S and bought more than 5-6 times in just a year.

    I regret of the negative china type comment, which clearly seems good move by competitors.

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  • samreen
    Dec 27, 2013 - 11:33AM

    I wonder on the news :o are they really worth winning MITEF and then covered by Tribune????

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  • leadfoot
    Jan 10, 2014 - 12:24AM

    Not pleasant. They don’t have good sense about Ecommerce. I tried my first order with them and disappointed. They have good catalog but their inventory and information is not up to date. After talking to online representative about an item I placed the order. It stayed pending for almost a day and then when I asked them I was told that item is out of stock! I was waiting for shipment since they claim 24 hours. The don’t know how to stay in touch with customer while doing online business.

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  • Rizwan (GS-MPF)
    Jan 10, 2014 - 4:53PM

    Dear Saad,
    Great efforts to take initiative of e-commerce in making a reality in PK market. By time passes and with start of 3G service, it will grow exponentially.
    Keep it up.

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  • Abeer
    Jan 13, 2014 - 12:23AM

    One More thing i need to say after reading this line “Starting from a basement car garage with savings from his monthly pocket money”

    Literally i was laughing while reading it because as Saad jangda’s old interview and other reference His Memon partner invested a huge amount and they both started Symbios.pk but unfortunately our people love to say a lie to get more attention of people

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